Rule out Three Candidates for A.G.

by on Sep.03, 2010, under New York, Politics

It’s been a little tricky to figure out which of the many candidates to replace Andrew Cuomo is the best.

Fortunately, three of them just ruled themselves out of serious consideration in my book:

Candidates Eric Dinallo, Sean Coffey and Richard Brodsky say they would investigate funding for the $100 million Park51 project a few blocks from ground zero. Kathleen Rice would investigate if there was evidence of wrongdoing, and Eric Schneiderman says he would probe funding if a concern were raised or as part of a broader investigation into funds moving through New York to support terrorism.

“The mosque being built in that area is offensive to me, as a matter of my role as a citizen,” said Brodsky, saying he would investigate its funding sources. “The law will be applied to those folks as it would be applied to any other group … without fear or favor.”

Dinallo said the funding “needs to be looked at” but just because it’s a mosque “is not a reason to put in such a deep investigation for that purpose alone.”

“I would go ahead and permit it to be built,” said Coffey. But he added: “I would also pursue investigation of the funding … I’d pursue it very aggressively.”

Investigating the funding of an Islamic community center merely because it became the focus of a Fox News Two Minutes’ Hate is completely offensive and ridiculous. So for those keeping score, that’s a big fat no to Dinallo, Coffey, and Brodsky. Which means it’s down to Rice and Schneiderman–and essentially, for me, Schneiderman.

Thanks, guys! The primary is after all just around the corner. I was worried about how to make that decision.

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Adventures in Ill-Advised Paragraphs

by on Aug.15, 2010, under Los Angeles, Politics

There’s nothing wrong with anonymity — in its place. For instance, many people engage in discourse and commerce on the Internet anonymously (assuming the websites they’re dealing with have any scruples) for sound personal reasons.

Michael Hiltzik, Trying to shed light on a shadowy figure in Proposition 23 battle, August 15, 2010

The L.A. Times has suspended Pulitzer-winning business columnist Michael Hiltzik without pay, and discontinued both his column and his weblog, in response to the news that Hiltzik used psuedonyms on his blog and elsewhere to comment on Times-related matters, including his own work.

Opinion L.A. (an latimes.com blog), Hiltzick Suspended, April 28, 2006

It’s a very good column. Hiltzick, probably my favorite L.A. Times columnist, is pushing to expose the donors who are hiding behind the “Adam Smith Foundation” in order to overturn California’s landmark greenhouse gas emissions control law, AB 32. Just… dude. Choose better examples.

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Not Good Enough

by on Aug.10, 2010, under New York, Politics

Look, I appreciate it’s his normal desire to have things all ways, but David Paterson is being an even bigger weenie than usual:

Gov. Paterson said Tuesday the developers of the mosque near Ground Zero might consider moving the project – and even floated the idea of offering them state land.

Paterson said the anxiety felt by mosque opponents was “not without cause” and that New York still suffers from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Paterson stressed however that he has no objections to the proposed center, which houses a mosque, and that there is “no reason” why it should not be built.

Unacceptable. There is no legitimate “cause” for 9/11 victims to be upset here. Any equivocating on that point implies that there is a legitimate connection to be drawn between crazy terrorists and the world’s 1 billion Muslims, even if in the next breath you say the opposite explicitly.

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Are the Courts Progressive?

by on Aug.09, 2010, under Politics

There’s a temptation for liberals, especially when confronted with demagogic initiatives like California’s Prop 187 and Prop 8 and Arizona’s SB1070 to look to the courts and the function of judicial review as the locus of minority protection in U.S. democracy. In its ugliest form, this takes the form of an anti-populist snobbery: “thank god we have the courts to protect us from yahoos.”

An old Scott Lemieux post provides a good summary of why, although this may be the case from time to time, progressive outcomes are rarely due to judicial review. Long excerpt below the fold.

(continue reading…)

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A Change Is Gonna Come

by on Aug.07, 2010, under Politics

[M]arriage has always been understood, with very few exceptions, as the union of a man and a woman. This is true across time, across cultures, across religious traditions, etc. Does it really seem likely that this remarkable consensus is nothing but a nasty desire of one group to flaunt its privileged position over a minority? Is it really feasible that the world’s cultures all consulted about how to put down gay people and came up with marriage as the solution?

William Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, in National Review‘s The Corner

It is a rather amazing fact that, of the very many dimensions along which the genital activity of one person can be differentiated from that of another (dimensions that include preference for certain acts, certain zones or sensations, certain physical types, a certain frequency, certain symbolic investments, certain relations of age or power, a certain species, a certain number of participants, etc. etc. etc.), precisely one, the gender of object choice, emerged from the turn of the century, and has remained, as the dimension denoted by the now ubiquitous category of “sexual orientation.” The is not a development that would have been foreseen from the viewpoint of the fin de siècle itself[…].

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet

42. Same-sex love and intimacy are well-documented in human history. The concept of an identity based on object desire; that is, whether an individual desires a relationship with someone of the opposite sex (heterosexual), same sex (homosexual) or either sex (bisexual), developed in the late nineteenth century.

a.    Tr 531:25-533:24 (Chauncey: The categories of heterosexual and homosexual emerged in the late nineteenth century, although there were people at all time periods in American history whose primary erotic and emotional attractions were to people of the same sex.);

Judge Vaughn Walker in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger

This is a court ruling, not an academic seminar at Berkeley.

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner

One of the most impressive and least discussed aspect of the ruling that has overturned Proposition 8 is its sense of history. The standard right-wing dismissal of gay marriage is that marriage has for millennia been an institution that joins a man and a woman, and that same-sex marriage hasn’t even been on the agenda of gay rights groups for very long. Even sympathetic critics see the place of marriage on the gay agenda as emerging “as if out of nowhere over just the past few years”, and not without reason.

The excerpt I pulled from the ruling is slightly misleading; for all the attention Perry vs. Schwarzenegger gives to the historical contingency of homosexuality, it gives much more to the evolving qualities of marriage. Racial restrictions and divorce laws loosen over time. Historian Nancy Cott testified about the laws of coverture and the ways in which “the wife was covered, in effect, by her husband’s legal and economic identity.”

“Chauncey” cited above refers to George Chauncey, who authored the amicus Historian’s Brief in Lawrence vs. Texas. There’s been much discussion about how the legal framework of Walker’s decision is aimed directly at Justice Kennedy, seen as the swing Supreme Court vote. Less has been made about the importance of the historical grounding to Kennedy; as Rick Perlstein wrote in an article about Chauncey, “the heart of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s new legal doctrine in the 6–3 decision [of Lawrence vs. Texas], ranging over some dozen paragraphs, is a virtual recapitulation of the Historian’s Brief arguments.”

It would be hard for the Supreme Court to allow a radical challenge to an eternal truth, and right-wing rhetoric like the reductio ad absurdum in the William Duncan quote depends on this. But the case has been carefully made that a century-long shift has led to an incontrovertible conclusion. The challenge no longer looks like a radical upset, but as a mostly typical (and slightly queer) American pattern of expansion of justice and liberty.

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Big Deal

by on Aug.03, 2010, under New York, Politics

Well this is an extremely big deal.

No, not the legislature finally passing the budget. That’s just hugely overdue.

This part:

Lawmakers also passed a controversial measure requiring that prisoners be counted as residents not of the mostly upstate prisons where they reside, but of the areas where they lived before they were incarcerated.

This was a long time coming. As long as people can’t vote from prison, their numbers shouldn’t be transferred to a new district.

For more on why this was important, see here:

In New York State one out of every three people who moved to upstate New York in the 1990s actually “moved” into a newly constructed prison. The State bars people in prison from voting, but their presence in the Census boosts the population of the upstate districts whose legislators favor prison expansion. Without using prison populations as padding, seven state senate districts would have to be redrawn, causing line changes throughout the state.

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by on Jul.15, 2010, under Politics

At Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok pulls this quote from Bill Hayton’s Vietnam: Rising Dragon:

It might seem strange, given the system’s surveillance and security networks, but the Communist Party is wary of high-profile law enforcement campaigns.  Failure would be worse than embarrassing for a party which is supposed to represent the people’s will.  Such campaigns are only ever risked at times and in ways which demonstrate the Party’s continuing hold on power.

In this country, we have the exact inverse — high-profile law enforcement campaigns fail all the time, with the only consequence of expanding the Party’s continuing hold on power. For Party read law enforcement narrowly, or the State if you’re like that. Consider the War on Drugs, a failure by any -on-drugs standard but a huge consolidation of police power and imprisonment.

Somebody oughta tell the Vietnamese.

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You Forgot Zeppo

by on Jul.11, 2010, under Politics, Uncategorized

In the introduction to A Companion to Marx’s Capital, available for download, David Harvey suggests that Marx is synthesizing from three intellectual traditions active in his day: English political economy, German critical philosophy, and French utopian socialism.

A long excerpt below the fold. (continue reading…)

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Zip Up Your Skirt and Get In The Ring

by on Jun.19, 2010, under Politics

Dahlia Lithwick is a little too subtle when she asks the question “What happens to our civic life when we’re all too scared to participate?

In the wake of Prop 8’s passage, activists publicized the names of individual donors to Yes on 8 and encouraged boycotts. To find tactics she calls “inexcusable and genuinely threatening”, Lithwick links to an editorial by the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor, who writes:

Protesters have shouted insults at people headed to worship; temples and churches have been defaced. “Blacklists” of donors who contributed to Yes on 8 are circulating on the Internet, and even small-time donors are being confronted. A Palo Alto dentist lost two patients as a result of his $1,000 donation. The artistic director of the California Musical Theatre resigned to spare the organization from a fast-developing boycott. Scott Eckern, the artistic director of the Sacramento theater group and a Mormon, had given $1,000 to Yes on 8.

Not quite Mississippi Burning. Let’s break it down: “People headed to worship” presumably means in the Mormon church, which raised $40 million to pass Prop 8. It makes me happy to know that people are shouting insults at them. Existing laws prohibit defacing temples and churches; I bravely submit that they should be enforced. If I found out that the money I was spending on my dentist was going to defeat marriage rights, I would find a new dentist and I would thank the person who told me.

I personally feel ambivalent about using a boycott of an organization to drive an individual with repellent views from his job. I might question it as a tactic. But there’s no question that people have the right to not direct their funds where they will be used to hurt them politically. I think the Prop 8 donors who cry scared are genuinely surprised that they don’t have a right to be liked. I think they’re surprised that people take it personally when they prevent them from marrying.

I think they’re scared in part by their own empathy — the yawp of rage that sounded after Prop 8 won made them feel, for the first time, just how bad gay people felt at being told they couldn’t marry. Knowing for a moment that anger, it scared them to know that someone else had it towards them.

Justice Scalia, mirabile dictu, gets it right. Lithwick:

While he acknowledged that threats of violence and hate mail can be scary and should be addressed by other legal means, Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed Bopp’s concern that one’s political opponents are just a mouse-click away from hunting you down as “touchy-feely, oh-so-sensitive.” An exasperated Scalia warned at oral argument that “you can’t run a democracy this way, with everybody being afraid of having his political positions known.”

The United States has a robust avenue for anonymous political participation. Besides your blog. I speak of the vaunted secret ballot. If you want to anonymously support a cause, do so on election day. Otherwise, if you put your money where your mouth is, be prepared that others may do so as well.

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Alvin Greene

by on Jun.13, 2010, under Politics

Here’s my Alvin Greene hypothesis. I think his candidacy is cooked-up and crooked. I think his vote margin is a Dieblod artifact. I think he’s also supposed to get caught.

No one in the South Carolina GOP ever lost a minute of sleep over Jim DeMint losing his seat. Someone saw an opportunity. The stakes are low — let’s see how effectively we can sabotage a Democratic primary, let’s see what people use to figure it out (statistical analysis! recount challenges! investigative reporting!) and then when it counts, we’ll know how to do it even better.

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